If you were to ask me what quality has gotten me through eight manuscripts, a thousand edits, and seven years of ups and downs, I would immediately tell you one thing.
Pure, cussed stubbornness.
Or, if you want to be elegant about it: determination. In my case, they’re pretty close to the same thing.
Writing when I’m inspired is my favorite thing. The words flow, ideas build and connect, and my characters cooperate and do what they’re told. It’s a beautiful thing.
I’ll be honest, though. I’m not very often ‘inspired’. Most of the time, I’m not. Instead, I’m faithful and I show up when I really, really don’t want to be there.
Determination will get you to the end of the journey, more so even than skill or talent.
A lot of people have great ideas when they start writing. They have good intentions, cool characters, and awesome plot ideas. But they never get past the first few chapters or even the first page. I see stories like this all the time, and it always breaks my heart because there is so much potential and not enough determination to make it happen.
How To Make It Happen
Determination—in my case—comes from a tendency towards stubbornness, but it’s something that I have cultivated too. I am determined to be the best I can be, I am determined to see my books in print, and I am determined to develop my skill set as a writer.
It’s a choice, and it’s a quality that I have developed over the years. I’ve done it with two truths, three tricks, and the next thing.
Determination is getting up in the morning to do what’s ahead of you—even if you don’t feel like it. No one feels like it every day. No one gets up every single morning and is inspired.
Muses are lazy. You have to be the one to get your muse out of bed and moving. You have to be the one who is rock hard and determined to get your stories finished and into the world.
Choosing determination is choosing your career above everything else—above that movie you wanted to watch, above the night out with your friends, above a day at the beach. I always encourage writers to take breaks, to live their lives, to spend time in nature and in the world to fuel their stories, but there is a line. A place where it’s time to shut the door, block the world out, and pursue your story instead. Without that, it will never happen.
- Set a schedule. Have a routine. Know when you have time to write and show up for your sessions. If you write best in the morning, then show up in the mornings. If you need moonlight and starlight to fuel your stories, then set aside your evenings to write. Know your time and set your schedule.
- Know your limits—and your strengths. Some people write in bursts and floods. Some in a steady flow. Find your methods, find your strengths, and exploit them.
- Decide what you want, and how badly you want it. Know your goals. Do you want to be an author? Do you want to finish this book, or write a series, or hit a bestseller list someday? Know what you want. More than that, know how much you are willing to sacrifice and how determined you are to see results.
The Next Thing
Do the next thing in front of you. I tell myself this all the time when I’m stuck, when I don’t know where to go next, and I need a direction for my week—or even my day. Instead of trying to plan three months or three years down the road, I am content with doing the next thing in front of me, the next chapter, the next blog post, the next graphic.
Your journey is your own, and the only way to tackle it is by taking it one step at a time.
So take a deep breath, and do the next thing in front of you.
Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.
How do you cultivate determination in your writing journey? What does determination look like for you? Tell me about it in the comments, and stay tuned for next week, the last week of our twelve-week series, when we will be discussing expectations and how best to use them to your advantage.